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Is Devolution Likely To Invigorate Celtic Nationalisms and Lead To the Break-Up of Britain?

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Introduction

IS DEVOLUTION LIKELY TO INVIGORATE CELTIC NATIONALISMS AND LEAD TO THE BREAK-UP OF BRITAIN? A government document confidently assured in July 1997: "the Union will be strengthened by recognising the claims of Scotland, Wales and the regions with strong identities of their own. The governments' devolution proposals... will not only safeguard but also endorse the Union". However could such an assertion reside as a gross political and constitutional miscalculation: does devolution represent the first step towards a British quasi-federalist state and an eventual break up of the Union; or conversely will it serve to smother Celtic nationalisms by accommodating the UK's divergent political demands in different parts of the country? Devolution is the devolving of political decision-making power from the centre to sub-national units. At least in theory, there is no loss of sovereignty at the centre in political devolution; for powers that are devolved can be repealed by an Act of Parliament. Therefore devolution does not stand synonymous with independence. ...read more.

Middle

With Westminster all but ceasing to legislate for Scotland, this will be accompanied by a removal of ministerial responsibility in Whitehall for Scottish affairs. Therefore, with Westminster no longer debating Scottish issues, it is only in constitutional theory alone that full legislative power remains with Westminster; thus characterising the new relationship between the two states as quasi-federal and only unitary during times of crisis. Westminster will reside as power only able to supervise another legislative body making laws on a wide range of issues. In addition, it will not be easy for Westminster to abolish the Scottish parliament without a national referendum or for it to unilaterally alter the devolution settlement to Scotland's disadvantage, as it would logistically have to seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament. Therefore Westminster will no longer retain the fundamental characteristic of a sovereign parliament: the right to make any law it wishes. Although culturally distinct, Wales has never been a separate integrated political unit - an incorporated part of the Union for far longer than Scotland and Northern Ireland. ...read more.

Conclusion

Celtic nationalism is largely based on political rather than economic grievances. While many nationalists complain that Scotland and Wales do not appropriate a large enough share of Westminster's coffers; it is common knowledge that, especially in the case of Scotland, funding per capita is much greater than the English national average. The Scots and to a lesser extent, the Welsh have been campaigning for political devolution ever since the matter resurfaced in the 1960s in order to partially eliminate the democratic deficit of quango control and the prospect of Scots being governed by a party they do support in the majority. Self-government therefore in the eyes of many, can only serve to diminish the basis for expressing such grievances in terms of protest votes for nationalists The likely impact of devolution is hard to assess. The potential benefits of change can certainly be overstated. The possible downside of constitutional change can also be exaggerated. The apocalyptic view, which sees an irrevocable fragmentation of the UK, ignores the fact that Britain has changed its territorial arrangements at many times in its history without disintegrating. ...read more.

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